Ways to Help Patients with MS
June 15 2021
8 Ways You can Support Those with Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic and usually progressive autoimmune disease. It damages the sheaths of the nerve cells in the patient’s brain and spinal cord. This can make it very difficult for the patient to get around as easily as they once used to. Because these changes are very life altering and it can be difficult for an MS patient to do daily living activities on their own, it is extremely important that they have a support system to help them.
Knowledge is Power
As a family member or friend, be sure to learn about MS. Understanding the symptoms and changes felt by the patient can help them. These changes and symptoms include sensory changes, dizziness, vision problems and even emotional changes. Also ask your loved one what they want others to know about MS. You may not be able to fully understand what they are going through, but putting in this effort can make a huge difference.
A great resource for learning about Multiple Sclerosis is the National MS Society website.
Understand there is Uncertainty & Be Flexible
MS can be unpredictable. It impacts everyone differently and symptoms vary and fluctuate. Because of this, it is key that you be flexible and understanding. MS patients will have good days and bad days, so be ready with a plan B when the bad days do occur. Because MS is generally progressive, it is also important to understand that as time goes on, the patient will require more help and care.
Treat Them the Same
Despite all the changes they are experiencing, it is important to treat MS patients the same as you always have. No one likes to be treated like they are completely incapable of doing things, so be sure to treat them as a strong and independent person capable of decision making and self care.
It can be a struggle for MS patients to accomplish daily activities, including walking. Offer to help with chores or other personal care needs. Remember, it is key that you ask first. Don’t just jump in and help unless the person appears to be at risk of getting injured.
Encourage a Healthy Lifestylecare
Encourage the patient to eat healthy and to continue to exercise. Taking care of our bodies is part of improving our quality of life. There is no special diet for MS but eating foods low in fat and high in vitamins and fiber can help people feel better and give them the energy they need to get through the day.
Research has also shown that regular aerobic exercise can help improve fitness, strength and other bodily functions that can be affected by MS. Yoga, water exercise and adaptive tai chi are some excellent options for MS patients and even their caregivers!
Address Their Sleep Issues
MS can cause sleeping issues, such as insomnia, frequent nightmares, urination, narcolepsy and leg spasms. Poor sleep can lead to lowered cognitive function and even affect the patient’s ability to cope. This means that the medical team needs to make addressing poor sleep a key focus of treatment and family caregivers should help the patient advocate for this.
Help Manage Emotional Health
Depression and other mood changes are common in MS. Many patients may even experience grief due to all the changes and losses they are going through. Help them manage their emotional health by providing support. Be the shoulder to cry on or the ear that listens. Help your loved one advocate for medical treatment, if needed, including medicines or therapy. Building a support system will help them become more resilient and be able to deal with the changes they are experiencing and improve their quality of life.
Customize Their Environment
MS symptoms can strike suddenly and can make it hard for patients to navigate their environment. The medical team should help address changes that can be made to make their environment safer and even more efficient to move about. Also be sure to keep essentials within easy reach of the patient and minimize clutter to reduce the risk of falls.
Multiple Sclerosis is unpredictable and life altering. Providing support, love and care for MS patients is key in helping improve their quality of life. With some education about the disease, offering help and addressing symptoms, a person with MS can live a full and happy life.